By Vishani Ragobeer
As countries around the world continue their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns using the vaccines that have been made available to them, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has urged countries not to become divided based on the type of vaccines administered to citizens.
The President said this as he addressed world leaders on Thursday morning during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This gathering of global leaders is being held at the UN Headquarters in New York City; this is the President’s first in-person address to the UN.
Since December 2020, when the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world and became a public health concern, countries were forced to adopt measures to safeguard people’s lives.
As part of the global scientific response to this pandemic, however, vaccines were developed and rolled out. But even then, the uneven distribution of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines has been a global challenge.
“The access to vaccines saw the world polarised,” President Ali said at the UN. He, however, continued: “… we must not now hurt our efforts at ending this polarisation of access to vaccines by implementing measures that divide us and curtail our movement based on the type of vaccines our people took.”
This appeared to be a reference to Guyana’s own use of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine which has not received approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) but has been the backbone of Guyana’s vaccination efforts.
The approval process for this vaccine is still ongoing but more than 70 countries globally have been using the vaccine. Because this vaccine has not been approved as yet, countries implementing vaccine travel restrictions would not accept people vaccinated with it.
But President Ali emphasised: “… Millions took the vaccines which were available at a time of much uncertainty, and they are the unsung heroes. They must not now be the subject of restrictions based on the vaccines they took.”
According to him, world leaders and countries should be focused on addressing vaccine hesitancy, which, according to the WHO, refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccine services.
With hesitancy addressed, countries would be able to achieve herd immunity, wherein their individual populations are protected from COVID-19 because enough people have been vaccinated and have immunity against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.
It is important to note that this is not a new concern raised by President Ali; as a matter of fact, it has been one that he has spoken out about previously.
At his August 2 press conference here, the Head of State firmly stated that the travel of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals within the region should not be constrained by which COVID-19 vaccine an individual took. His statement then came after Trinidad and Tobago maintained that it will only be accepting foreigners who have been fully vaccinated with approved vaccines.